In The Darkness

What she would find that day would change the world she lived in. Ancient pages would show her things that no one would ever believe and lead her to a land beyond her home town of Lockley.
Louisa McCain discovers an old diary in her basement, that tells her of a fantasy land that she could only dream of. She slowly gets entranced by the idea of the beyond, the potential that it holds. She becomes obsessed with finding this place called Philia, frantically scrambling to put together the clues and find the portal.
If she does, will it all be what she imagined or will she be plunged into a world that she wishes she'd never found?

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9. Nine

I woke up the next morning, my mind tangled in a web of thoughts, ideas and facts. My skull pounded like a drum, a rhythmic throb that beat at my temple. I couldn’t wait to get back home where they had Neurofen for headaches.

I pulled on my jeans and a jumper, gathering up anything that belonged to me and stashing it in a bag. If I could get away today, it would be great but I knew it was unlikely. I would most likely have to think up a plan first. The angels seemed too clever to just let me go that easily. Also, I needed to figure out how the portal worked and try to find a way to shut it down before I left so there was no chance that anyone could come from here to Earth and vice versa. I couldn’t have Zach or any of the other angels taking me or any of my friends off Earth and back to this beautiful hell.

I dove into the bathroom, splashing my face with cold water to wake myself up properly. I had to be prepared for this. It was an important day. This was the day that could change my life forever; that could make or break me. It would depict the path that I would have to travel down and the road that would remain untraveled.

The lyrics of a Linkin Park song flickered through my head. The love that you lost wasn’t worth what it cost and in time you’ll be glad it’s gone. The irony of the lyrics was uncanny.  It was true, though. The supposed love that I lost with Zach wasn’t worth the cost of losing my friends, family and, potentially, my life. In time, I think I will be glad that it has gone. I was like a time bomb, waiting to explode in my face and probably kill me. It was never meant to last. Now I knew I was just some girl to him. He had probably lured thousands of gullible teens, like me, to his mountain residence and wooed them with his charm and good looks, making them feel like they were the only one for him and he had been awaiting their arrival for centuries.

I should have realised the cliché and known it was a lie. Nothing like that could ever happen to a regular girl like me. The fairytales of prince charming sweeping the princess off her feet and instantly falling in such a pure, unconditional love were literally unheard of. Love was not perfect. Love was not all sweet. Yet it was not all bitter either. It was a combination of the two, which combined to make the rollercoaster ride of life.

When you think about, rollercoaster’s are a metaphor of love. On one hand, they make you feel great and full of adrenaline; as alive as you could be. However, they were also scary and made you scream. Bittersweet.

A light rapping of knuckles and then a twist of the door knob signalled Zach’s entry. I zipped up my bag and stood up, wanting to leave for the village as soon as possible and not linger around the cave for too long.

“Morning, love. You alright?” Zach asked, coming to stand right in front of me.

“I’m fine thanks. Ready to go?” I hoped I didn’t sound too eager to go. He might figure me out if he heard the rushed tone to my voice.

“Hold your horses. Don’t you just want to spend some time alone? Just us...alone.” I got what he was hinting at but didn’t want to. I had to find away to not allow it to happen without making it seem like anything had changed.

“Can’t we go into the village first? I’ve wanted to see what it’s like for ages now.” I decided to go for the compromise, hoping he wouldn’t pick up the scent of my thought track.

“Alright then.” He rolled his eyes and took my hand, pulling me from the room. “We’ll fly to the village, and then I’ll show you around for a while. Then I have to head off and meet with some friends at the pub. I’ll meet you up back where we land; by the fountain in the middle of the village square at sundown.”

“Sounds like a plan.” We walked out the door, me in front of him. He wrapped his rope-like arms around my waist, clasping his hands together at my front, like a knot that would prevent me from escaping.

“Ready to fly, love?”

“Yep.”

“Alright then. Off we go.” Zach bent his knees, then launched off. We zoomed off, up into the cloudless azure sky. My stomach was left behind on the ground as we soared through the open skies.

Despite not being happy with my current predicament, I was content at that moment, a small smile curving on my lips. I was enraptured by the sites below me, the emerald grass landscape with a path of brilliant blue carved into it. The village in the distance was a small collection of thatched roof houses and shops, which looked like a model village from my vantage point.

Then I remembered who was holding me in a vice like grip. It was Zach; the one who had fed me lies for goodness knows how long and made me fall just to let me drop straight on my face in the dirt. The smile slipped right off my face then, falling to the ground just like I had. Freefalling, just to land straight in the dirt, no one there to catch it.

I was angry and bitter and I faced up to it. I stared my emotions in the face and dared them to show themselves and blow my carefully crafted cover.

Before I knew it, we had landed, my emotions creating a short film clip in my head, showing snippets of each feeling, like a movie trailer. I had closed my eyes to regain composure, taking a few deep breaths to calm down the boiling pit of emotions that had bubbled up in my chest. I managed to bring them down to a simmer, finally able to open my eyes and see the village for the first time up close.

 The most gorgeous fountain I had ever seen stood proudly before me, numerous beams of water darting across the tiered stonework, arcing just to drop into the pool of water below. On the top tier, right in the centre, was an elegant stone angel, with its wings outstretched and a smile carved into its perfect face. It held its hands out, cupped so that it could hold some water, just for it to waterfall out to the small pool of water by its feet. On the next tier, two wolves faced the centre pillar, their snouts pointing upwards towards the angel, their mouths open, displaying a row of sharp teeth, as if it was howling at the moon. Two flows of water shot out of their opened jaws, crossing over each other and splashing on the other’s left side. On the lower tier, several mermaids sat on the rim of the fountain, each of them with their scaly tail dipped in the largest of the fountain’s pools. They held their hands cupped, like the angels, except they held their hands up towards the creatures above, as if they were offering the water to the wolves and angel. The water trickled out of their smooth, stone palms, creating a soft splashing sound as the water flowed freely into the pool where their tails lay.

The fountain seemed to not just be some stone carving of great beauty. It seemed to go deeper than that. My theory was that it depicted the hierarchy of Philia, with the angels on top, the werewolves in the middle and the merfolk at the bottom. It seemed to make pretty good sense, seeming as I had seen no other supernatural creatures near to the caves, aside from the angels, and the angels I had heard and seen appeared to have plenty of power over the humans, so why not the rest of Philia as well? It made perfect sense.

I would have to somehow subtly ask Zach, so as to get a better idea of the structure of Philia. Maybe discovering more about the politics of the place would hold the key to my escape from the angels. Knowing where to make my alliances would be a major factor in how quick I could escape and find a solution to locking down the portal.

One place I was sure I wouldn’t find help was the angels. Zach seemed to be pretty high up among the angel ranks from what I knew, so most, if not all, of the angels would be more than likely to give me up if I so much as breathed a word of my plan to one of them.

Maybe the wolves would be willing to help, or the merfolk. If I could get them to create an uprising, maybe I’d be able to distract the angels long enough to shut down the portal and get out myself. If the real numbers were in a similar ratio to those on the fountain, it would be easy to overthrow the angels and complete my task.

“You ready to look around the village?” A voice at my ear said. I had been so immersed in my plotting that I had forgotten that he was here with me.

“Yep” I replied, trying to sound cheery.

“It’s not a very large village, but we have all the necessary shops.” Zach swept his arm around showing me the square of shops that all surrounded the fountain.  

“Is it just this square then?”

“Yes. All the shops are on this square. I would advise that you don’t talk to anyone aside from the shop owners. Some people here can be…less than pleasant to put it nicely.”

“Alright then.” I wasn’t going to listen to that piece of advice; I wanted to talk to as many of the locals as I could to find out the clues that would help me to create my plan.

“There’s the tailors over there,” he pointed at a red brick shop opposite us, “and there’s the jewellers in the corner. If you need to know anything else, just go to 5 Gate Street, I’ll be there. I’m just meeting up with a few friends for an important meeting. Anything else you need to know?”

“I don’t think so. I should be fine. I’ll come and see you if I need anything.”

“Ok then. I’ll see you later, right here.” And with a kiss on the cheek, he left me.

The square was at a standstill, everyone watching me and Zach. It was like someone had just pushed a pause button on the whole scene, except the fountain was still shooting its steady streams of water.

Then, as if nothing had happened at all, everyone continued bustling about, going in and out of shops and talking to one another. I got a few weird looks and fingers pointed at me, but aside from that, all was well.

I decided to visit the tailors first. Maybe I would be able to get something so I could blend in better when I attempted my escape and tried socialising with the villagers.

A little bell chimed over the door as I stepped into the store. Zach had given me some foreign coins to pay for anything that I needed to buy whilst I was out on my little shopping spree.

“Good morning, miss. I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before. How may I help you?” An old man with a bushy white moustache approached me from behind the beech counter, taking confident strides for someone of his age. He was rather tall and sported a fitted suit with a grey waistcoat over the ice blue shirt. His eyes shone in the brightly lit shop, the colour of polished aquamarines, with millions of tiny facets.

“I was just thinking of buying some new clothes, sir.” I replied, putting on a polite tone.

“Ah, of course. If you don’t mind me asking, what is your name and how did you come upon our tiny village in all of Philia?”

“I’m Louisa McCain.” I put my hand out for him to shake, uncertain of how you greeted someone here. He shook my hand, gripping my hand firmly in his calloused palm. It was clearly a common way of greeting here as well. “I was brought here by Zach, the angel who lives in the mountain caves.”

I didn’t know if he would know who I was talking about, but hoped for the best in anyways.

“Lord Zachariel?!” he seemed both shocked and impressed at the same time.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Well then, Miss McCain, we better had find you something then.”

The man scurried off into a back room, obviously now in a rush to serve me.

I never knew Zach was a Lord. This just confirmed my suspicions that the angels were on top of the hierarchy of Philia. 

“Here we go, Miss McCain. Some garments for you to try. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Miss Pennyweather here whilst you are being fitted.”

“Thank you.”

Before me stood a slim woman, with square framed glasses that perched on the bridge of her nose. Her light golden brown hair slicked back into a tight bun, the odd strand escaping her grips and falling into her face, just for her slim fingers to push them back behind her ear. Her eyes shone a warm brown, like hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day.

“Hello, Miss McCain is it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“We have a selection of dresses here for you to try, if you would like to just walk this way.”

I followed Miss Pennyweather down to a set of curtained stalls. The curtains were a shade of pearl white as were the walls of each changing area. The floor was a light wood laminate, Miss Pennyweather’s heels clicking along it as she walked towards one of the cubicles and opened the curtain for me to enter. She hung the several dresses that the man had picked out for me to try on a rail.

“I’ll be out here when you are ready.” She smiled at me, and then closed the curtain to.

I quickly slipped into the first dress, the folds of the skirt falling to the floor. It was a beautiful bronze piece, with a chiffon skirt that flowed down to dust the floor lightly. It looked like something that I would wear to my school prom, not something I would wear every day, but it did look gorgeous.

I opened the curtain and Miss Pennyweather looked up at me. Her face broke out into a smile.

“That looks beautiful on you, Miss McCain.”

“Thank you” I blushed a little, taking the compliment.

 “What do you think of it?”

“I love it.” A smile broke out onto my face as I looked back at myself in the mirror, seeing how the dress showed off my assets and played down my flaws.

“We’ll put that in to keep then. It seems that no adjustments need to be made, which is great as the official’s ball is tonight.”

The official’s ball? It sounded very fancy and something that I probably wouldn’t need to attend as Zach’s little human play thing but I may as well keep the dress in anyways. I had prom at the end of year 11, if I made it out of here alive that is.

“Of course.” I replied trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

“Shall we try on the next dress then, Miss McCain?”

“Sure, I’ll go change now.”

I stripped out of the elegant bronze dress and into a more casual block colour dress. The bust was khaki and had two thin straps that held it up at my shoulders. The skirt came to just above my knee and was midnight black. The whole dress was made of form fitting linen that would easily crease.

I opened the curtain once again, to show Miss Pennyweather.

She shook her head slightly, grimacing at the dress. I felt a similar way, not as happy with this dress.

“I don’t think I like this one all that much.” I said, wanting to say what she wanted to.

“I have to agree with you there. I don’t think it fits you as well as the previous dress.”

We continued the process, but nothing else I tried seemed to be right. It seemed that that one dress was made for me though, the way it glided over me like a second skin.

“Do you have anything without a skirt?” I asked after several more failed attempts at finding something more casual.

“We have a few jumpsuits for women but no trousers, like you are wearing. It is not fashionable at the moment for women to wear trousers at the moment, especially with the warm weather we’ve been experiencing at the moment.”

“Ok. Would you mind showing me some of the jumpsuits then?” I wanted something I could easily move in without flashing everything, for when I escaped. I needed to be prepared to run and jump when the time came as I had no idea how lucky I could get with distracting the angels.

“Of course, Miss McCain.” Miss Pennyweather scurried out of the changing rooms, heading back the way we had come.

The cogs in my head ground as they turned. I had to find out more information on Zach, the portal and anything else I could get my hands on without making anyone too suspicious. I especially needed to figure out the structure of society here: who hated who and who had alliances with whom. If I accidentally told someone with an alliance with the angels, I would probably be as good as dead. It was clear to me now that I was disposable to Zach, and the time for my disposal was getting ever closer.

“Here we go, Miss McCain.” Miss Pennyweather handed me three coat hangers, each with a different coloured jumpsuit hanging off it.

I now had my practical head on, thinking of what would be best for my escape, rather than what would look best.

One of the suits was cobalt blue, sleeveless and the legs flared out at the bottom. I wouldn’t even bother trying that on as the bottom of the legs would catch on any branches and my arms would be sliced by anything sharp that came near my arms.

Another one was bright white. I instantly put that one back on the rail, knowing I would stand out against the pitch black of the night sky, which was probably the best time to make my run for it.

The final one was black, so I would be camouflaged easily, the legs did not flare but stayed straight, so would not snag on anything, and it had long sleeves. It was pretty much perfect for what I needed it for.

I pulled it on quickly, the legs staying just on my ankles and the sleeves finished just at the base of each of my palms. The sleeves did billow out a little and were only made of a light material, but it was the best I was going to get, so it would have to do.

I secured the thin gold belt that was attached to the waist and tightened it around my middle. A small smile spread across my face as the reality of my plans set in a little more. It was becoming ever more possible that I could get out of here alive.

I whipped back the curtain, not even caring about Miss Pennyweather’s opinion this time around. I was going to buy this suit; it was the only thing I could get that would be good enough for my escape plan.

 “I’m going to get this.” I announced, leaving no room for negotiation.

“Great, because I think you should too. It’s not necessarily the fashion at the moment, but I think if people saw Lord Zachariel’s guest in this attire, it would become the talk of the town.”

“Ok then, so I’ll just get the dress and this jumpsuit then please.”

“Of course, Miss McCain, excellent choices. If you just hand me all the rejected items and I’ll put them back in their places then I’ll meet you back in the main shop area so that you can make your purchases.”

“Thank you for your help Miss Pennyweather.”

“No problem, Miss McCain.” She smiled at me as she took the rejected items from my hands and swept off back towards the main shop. 

I got back into my jeans and t-shirt, and then grabbed the dress and jumpsuit from the silver rail in the changing rooms.  I went out, back into the main shop and paid for my new clothes.

 

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